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Plain and Simple for Sept. 5, 2013
SoVaNow.com / September 05, 2013I went to see the movie, The Butler, this weekend. If you do not keep up with such things, it is one of those inspired by true events movies. It means that you don’t know exactly what is true in the movie and what is not. It portrays Cecil Gaines as a Georgia sharecropper who goes on to be a White House butler and thus becomes involved with United States presidents from Eisenhower to Reagan. The movie is based on the recollections of Gene Allen and takes numerous liberties with the actual facts of his life.
While I always view such movies with a somewhat cynical eye and usually take the time to check out the inaccuracies if the movie piques my interest at all, I did find myself deeply moved by several aspects of the film. For example, it does a great job of rubbing our faces in just how unjust the system was in those days. We have managed to paint pretty pictures in our minds about how things were and we have assured ourselves that, had we been around back then, we surely would have landed on the side of goodness and decency.
The brutal reality is that good and decent people were around back then and they were the ones beating up the Freedom Riders. They saw a threat to their way of life and they were forming lines to yell obscenities at little first-grade girls as they tried to integrate schools. We are fooling ourselves if we think that we would have been brave enough to resist those who stood for the status quo. There were a few brave souls who stood up but very few.
It was dangerous to stand up for what was right back then. I lived through those days. To even play with an African-American put you at risk. I know because I lived beside blacks and we played together occasionally. It makes me sick to see that many political punks are claiming Martin Luther King, Jr. as their own now when I know that they would have been first in line to condemn him back in the day.
I remember well that a poll tax was a way to intimidate voters even while they said that it was only $1.50. A literacy test was supposedly a reasonable way to keep voting open to good citizens but the people who gave the test got to choose the questions and how they asked those questions. It is repugnant to me that we are now resorting to similar tactics to take the vote away again from our citizens. The Butler, for all its inaccuracies, reminds us that bad things happen when we conspire to rob parts of our population of their rights as Americans.
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